Curcumin and Muscle Recovery

curcumin-supplementCurcumin, the yellow pigment associated with curry spice (Turmeric), is gaining increasing popularity among athletes and those who engage in intense workouts because of its incredible ability to enhance muscle recovery.


While curcumin provides a number of health benefits resulting from its anti-microbial and antioxidant properties, the anti-inflammatory and pain reducing effects of this polyphenol make it an ideal addition to any athlete’s supplement diet.

Curcumin as an Anti-Inflammatory

One review notes that curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular component of traditional Chinese medicine as well as Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest holistic healing systems developed thousands of years ago in India. [1] Curcumin’s anti-inflammatory properties come from its ability to “down-regulate the activity of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), lipoxygenase, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) enzymes; inhibits the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin (IL) -1, -2, -6, -8, and -12, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP), and migration inhibitory protein; and down-regulates mitogen-activated and Janus kinases.” [1] In simpler terms, it blocks the production of enzymes that cause inflammation and stimulates those that block it.

Curcumin and Joint Health

Animal studies show that curcumin is capable of reducing inflammation in mice with edema, rheumatoid arthritis, and those that experienced muscosal injury from experimentally-induced colitis. [1] The success of these studies prompted scientists to explore the anti-inflammatory impacts of curcumin on humans with similar conditions. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis took 1200 mg of curcumin daily and experienced reductions in joint swelling and morning stiffness as well as improvements in walking time. [1]

Curcumin and Muscle Recovery

Curcumin reduces problems associated with chronic conditions characterized by inflammation. This has made curcumin an obvious choice for those who require recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. An investigation in the American Journal of Physiology in 2007 notes that muscle-damaging exercise can cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines in the working muscle, something that curcumin inhibits. [2]


The investigation studied the effect that curcumin had on mice subjected to both treadmill and wheel running.  It found that curcumin speeds recovery of exercise-induced muscle damage resulting from those exercises. [2] The study concluded that all-natural curcumin would be a better alternative to anti-inflammatory NSAIDs such as ibuprofen which can degrade the lining of the stomach. [2]

Curcumin and Piperine

It’s worth noting that if you enjoy Indian food and eat it often, you are already treating your body to curcumin’s many digestive health benefits. Unfortunately, curcumin’s poor oral bioavailability allows for limited absorption. This means much of what you consume does not get absorbed into the blood. This inhibits curcumin’s many systematic benefits including the anti-inflammatory ones.


Thankfully, you can attenuate this issue with the aid of black pepper extract, piperine, or complex versions of Curcumin. These supplements enhance curcumin’s bioavailability so that individuals taking one of these combinations see a positive impact from curcumin on their systematic health. This is particularly true for athletes who suffer from muscle fatigue.